Slightly shorter chapter as the entire chapter 4 (which covers mostly IWRY) looks to be covering at least 3 separate parts.
Disclaimer: I do not own BtVS or Angel. All characters belong to Jos Whedon and Mutant Enemy.
As if on auto-pilot, Buffy made her way straight back to campus. Taking various short cuts through neighboring yards, mere minutes had passed before she arrived at the dorm room door. Not bothering to unlock it, she decides on brute force instead. Stepping into the room, Buffy looks down at the door handle still firmly gripped by her hand. Looking it over, she simply throws it over her shoulder into the hallway.
Making her way to her wardrobe, she begins to throw various items into a duffel bag. Out of habit, throwing in several vampire slaying paraphernalia including a stake, some holy water and a cross. Something inside her was now really protecting her from what she knew she should feel right now.
Looking around the room, she makes a final sweep with her eyes, seeing if she had forgotten to include anything in her bag. Seeing the photo of her and Willow on the bedside table, Buffy walks over and inspects it. With what effort she had left, Buffy slams the photo into the wall – the glass shattering around the room with a loud smash.
Upon hearing the commotion, several students wander into the hallway, curious as to the source of the late night interruption. Seeing the broken door and looking at the hardened slayer, the curiosity is immediately replaced with horror. Quickly, the onlookers scatter, returning to the comfort of their own rooms.
Paying no mind to her fellow students, Buffy picks up her bag and returning to auto-pilot, soon finds herself at the bus stop. Purchasing a ticket on the midnight bus to LA, Buffy doesn't know why she needs to confront Angel, but something is pulling her in that direction and it isn't for the reasons that once were.
This last piece of herself deep inside, this last part wasn't furious or enraged.
It just simply wanted to know.
Why? Why had Angel come here? If he left her, why would he come back? And not tell her? Is this some form of cruel torture?
Buffy was strangely compelled to find out the answers. Like it was the last possible thread holding her to this earth, she needed some honesty from the vampire.
And Angel was going to give it to her.
Arriving in LA, it was only 3AM. Looking around her at the empty bus stop, at first, Buffy can't help the fleeting thought that this wasn't such a good idea. Shaking her head, the idea of not coming wasn't an option. With her bag hung limply over her shoulder, she decides to rely on her instincts. Dropping her bag in the dark recesses of a nearby alleyway, Buffy takes out her always reliable stake, twirls it playfully in her battered hand and makes her way towards the not so friendly part of town. Without a seconds hesitation, Buffy allows the slayer inside to take over. This was her comfort zone and this was something she could always rely on until hell froze over – literally.
Six dusted vampires later, Buffy finds her feet taking her to a familiar part of town. The diner she worked in, during her summer in LA when she ran away. Opening the door, she finds herself a booth in a quiet corner – her slayer tendencies kicking in, she takes the seat with the best view to the door. Rubbing her eyes, Buffy is grateful for the waitress's interruption. Offering her some coffee, Buffy can muster little more than a nod. Now sitting in the harsh lights of the diner, she looks down at her hand. The briefest thought of guilt flashing deep down, at the knowledge that Giles will need to fix his wall. Before the thought was finished, she shut it away, not wanting to risk entertaining any offending feelings. Drawing her attention back to her hand, she notices she has broken a finger as well as severely damaging two of her knuckles. Recognizing the all too familiar feeling of her healing powers already, she doesn't bother thinking further about needing to help the process along at all. Hearing the door open, Buffy looks up – checking the parameters. Not sensing any danger emanating from the construction worker, she allows herself to be distracted by the strong smelling liquid in front of her. Not the best coffee she's had, but strangely it offers a sense of comfort. Picking up three sugar sachets, she tears them open and pours the contents into her mug.
Sure Buffy, sugar AND coffee is really going to help this situation. Wanting to avoid thinking about the inevitable meeting with Angel, Buffy decides instead to simply stare out the window. Letting her mind relax, she allows herself to wipe her mind of any worries and her heart of any concern.
A quick glance at her watch told her she had little over an hour until sunrise. Not that she needed to check it, the slayer could have told any random passer-by how long it would be until the sun started to make its' daily ascent. With that in mind, she had a little time until she knew she could be sure Angel was at the apartment. Sighing both in frustration and bone aching exhaustion, she leans her head wearily on the window, she finds herself drifting off to sleep.
Making his way back into the apartment, Angel could smell the oncoming sunrise. Thinking back on the nights' events, he was genuinely surprised at how quiet things were on the demon front. Particularly in the more seedy parts of the city, he was always guaranteed at least one or two vamps to take out his frustrations. But alas, of all nights, tonight he was given no such reprise. Placing his still glistening sword back in the weapons cabinet, he makes his way to his office and takes a seat in the now familiar desk chair.
When had his life become this way? Although he could justify why he was seeking forgiveness for all of his past wrongs, could he be certain he was going the right way about things? Angel knew he was doing that thing that everyone around him seemed to hate so much, but he could draw comfort from his self-effacing thoughts. Brooding was one of his trademarks and he wasn't about to quit now. Especially not after last night.
Seeing Buffy – and the way she was – was torture for him. It ripped him to his very core. Something that even his century in hell couldn't do. Although he went through unspeakable physical suffering and persecution, hell could not have hoped to conjure this new revelation. What was happening to Buffy was no less an apocalypse of her soul and for Angel – a vampire who had lived for literally centuries – he realized just how hopeless he was. With nothing to fight and nothing tangible to avenge, what was he to do? Closing his eyes, Angel rubs his hands roughly through his head, trying to calm the screaming inside. How could he possibly responsible for this? Although he didn't doubt Willow, or her recollection of the past 5 months with Buffy...he just couldn't understand how. Surely Buffy understood the reasons behind why he had to leave? Didn't she?
Thinking back on that night in the sewers and seeing the look in her eyes that was undeniably her heart smashing into a million pieces, he knew the feeling, his did the same. Although it didn't beat, his heart still very much existed and at that point - it was the only time he'd recalled since having his soul restored by the gypsies – he had staunchly wished he didn't have a heart. It pained him too and he felt as if he was ripping himself in two. One part wanting to stay. Stay forever and eternally by her side and be selfish to deny her of all the wonderful things life could offer her, that he inevitably could not. The second part, trying to be strong and making the decision that neither his other half, nor Buffy could make.
Releasing a makeshift sigh, he looks toward the clock. He'd soon have to face Doyle and Cordelia and to be honest, he really wasn't up for it. Angel knew that they (and by they, he meant Cordelia) would be determined to discuss his three day hiatus in Sunnydale. Getting the third degree wasn't on the top of his list of wants right now – he was being hard enough on himself as it was. Apart from that, he really didn't think it was his place to explain what was really going on with Buffy. It felt too private. And with that thought, the decision was made to not discuss that particular turn of events. This gave credence to his next thought – maybe the Powers that Be were behind this? Surely it was no coincidence that Doyle got the vision to head to Sunnydale, right at the time when things seem to be looking their worst for Buffy? His next conclusion was logical, but drew out a loud, demonic growl. Opening his yellow anger-laden eyes, Angel felt shocked. Did Doyle know, or see more than he had shared with Angel? Without realizing, he looked down at the pencil grasped firmly in his hand – so tightly, he wondered at the droplets of blood coming from his palm.
Although that thought only added to his deep sense of anger right now, he knew it wasn't going to help regardless. He couldn't blame anyone for what was happening to Buffy, the only thing he could focus on was fixing this and he had to figure it out and soon. Looking over to his phone, willing it to ring and bring some brilliant news from the young Witch and Buffy's watcher, he reveled in the daydream. Holding onto what little hope was left inside him, he calmly placed the pencil back down on the desk and watched curiously as it rolled off, of its' own accord. Desperate for a distraction – brief as it may be – he focused his mind on his desk. Looking for something that would help to level it, he opened his draw and noticed a long-forgotten stake. Juggling it in his hand and about to bend down to complete the task, his musings were abruptly interrupted.
"Don't do it, Angel!" Bursting through the door, Cordelia looks wildly at Angel, attempting to appeal to his common-sense.
Nodding in agreement, Doyle looks him straight in the eye "Listen to me, man, it's not worth it."
For a moment, Angel is seriously confused by their concern for him fixing the desk. Not quite coming to a conclusion of his own, he looks at them questioningly, his brows displaying his confusion "It's not?"
Grateful for his momentary hesitation and misinterpreting his confusion for that of remorse Cordelia attempts to rationalize "No! You can't let her get to you like this. You'll meet someone else. Just give it some time."
Reaching a hand out and with a nod towards the stake, Doyle offers "Why don't you let me have that?"
"Because I need it to level my desk." Bending down, Angel places the stake firmly under one of the table's legs. The ridiculousness of the situation not withstanding, he can't believe he has to explain apparently innocent intentions "The floor is uneven."
Standing back up to his full height, he notices Cordelia clutching at her chest and letting out a loud breath. Finally taking in her earlier desperation (and ignoring the absurd impossibility of there ever being 'someone else') he realizes what they were thinking. If only they knew the full story of the last three days. With Buffy the way she was, there was no way he would ever be able to give himself that one thing he used to think would offer him peace.
"You two thought.."
Not wanting to appear the desperado, Cordelia quickly interrupted."Doyle did. You know how he jumps to conclusions, - 'cause you saw Buffy."
And just like that, he was right. It took them all of a whole minute to bring up the topic of Buffy. Still not feeling like discussing it, he knew it wasn't fair on them. In their own strange way, Angel knew that they cared for him. Trying hard to hold a neutral look on his face, he tries to explain "It wasn't a social call. I was there to protect her." And look how much that helped... "I stayed out of sight. She didn't even know I was there."
Surprised at this, Cordelia couldn't help but wonder out loud "Really?" seeing Angel's confident nod, she continued "So you avoided her?"
Not appreciating the tone the conversation was taking, and certainly not wanting to admit to them or himself that he was doing anything remotely akin to 'avoiding' Buffy, Angel wanted to end this particular discussion right at that very moment. Taking in an unneeded, yet equally deep breath, "Look, Buffy is always going to be a part of me, and that's never going to change. But she's human and I'm - not" looking down at the floor, he almost bursts into laughter at the understatement "And that's also never going to change. We said our good-byes, no need to stir any of this up again." Reminded of the fact that Cordelia failed to alert him about Giles' call some weeks ago, he attempts to shift the focus on her. "And Cordelia, I need to talk to you about the importance of passing on messages. Particularly those which come from the hell mouth".
Gulping nervously, Cordelia knew exactly what he was referring to. But meeting his stubbornness with her own, she taunts him"You don't want to 'stir', but if my ex came to town and was all stalking me in the shadows and then left and then didn't even say 'hello' I'd be.."
Shocked and surprised at the fourth, heartbreakingly familiar voice in the room, Angel looks up at it's owner "A little upset."
His mouth drops open in shock. Their eyes locking together, his heart nearly coming into his mouth. Not unhappy by her unexpected visit, he is however astonished that she was able to get so close without feeling her first.
Hazel eyes meeting chocolate brown with equal strength, yet still with no feelings betraying her, Buffy accuses "Wouldn't you?"
I'll be away for the next couple of days, but will attempt to update again on Sunday evening.
Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed the update.